Category Archives: Army Jobs


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri November 1st 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
This week we are visiting another Army job, which a veteran leaving the Army, with that training and experience, can take off the uniform one day and go to work in a civilian job the next, doing the same thing, at a very good salary. The job title is Allied Trades Specialist, Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 91E. This Army job was formerly two different MOS’s, Machinist and Welder. A few years ago, the Army combined the two into one, and within the past couple of years moved the School from Maryland to Fort Lee, Virginia, into all new training facilities and barracks.
After basic training, probably at Fort Leonard Wood, the 91E candidate is moved to the Ordnance School at Fort Lee, which is located next to Petersburg, south of Richmond, Virginia. The Army web sites list 91E AIT (Advanced Individual Training) as 13 weeks, but it’s actually 19 weeks.
The first eight weeks are Machine Shop Fundamentals and Safety, Precision Measuring Tools, Metal Identification, Precision Layout, Operate Hand and Machine drills, Hand Threading Operations, Thread repair, Countersinking, Counter boring, and Reaming, Riveting Operations, Lathe Operations and Vertical Milling Machine Operations. They use Computer numerical control (CNC) machining, which is a machining process in which a computer controls the movements of the lathe or milling machine using a program made up of numerical code called “G Code”. CNC technology allows the machinist to manufacture single or multiple parts with speed and accuracy that is not possible on any manual machine. They use Haas Automation, Inc., toolroom lathes (TL-1’s) and toolroom mills (TM-1’s). These machines are equipped with Haas Intuitive Programming System (IPS), which can create parts programs with very little effort, and allows programs to be uploaded from separate computers.
The second eight week phase is Modern welding Fundamentals, Welding Prints and Symbols, Oxy-fuel Cutting, Oxy-fuel Welding, Plasma Arc Operations, Exothermic Cutting, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) and Shielding Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). They use Miller XMT 350 and Dynasty 200 welders, which are multi-process welding machines for SMAW, GTAW, and GMAW operations. They learn GMAW pulse, GTAW pulse, and flux core welding, and metal cutting ranging from thermal arc cutting to CNC plasma cutting.
The last three weeks are Army Combat and Tactical Equipment, Titanium Welding, Depleted Uranium, Introduction to Battle Damage Assessment and Repair Operations, TAMMS (The Army Maintenance Management System), ETMs (Electronic Technical Manuals) and PMCS Procedures (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) and Department of the Army Forms. They learn to set up and use the Army metal working and machine shop set (MWMSS). The MWMSS consists of two expandable mobile containers. One contains a CNC toolroom lathe (TL-1), a Miller XMT 350 and a Dynasty 200 welder, thermal cutting equipment, air-arc gouging capability, an air compressor, a generator for shop power, an environmental control unit (ECU), and an assortment of hand tools. The other contains a CNC toolroom mill (TM-1), a CNC plasma cutting table, an ECU, and more hand tools. Together they create a field metalworking repair complex. The MWMSS also contains a laptop computer with CAD/CAM software (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing), which allows the Allied Trades Specialist to create a part design or download it from a manufacturer, upload it to the CNC machine and manufacture the part, in the field.
Before graduating from 91E AIT, students are tested and receive the following national certifications. Certified Welder from the American Welding Society (AWS), and from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), CNC Milling and CNC Turning: Operations I, and Programming, Setup & Operations I, Drill Press I and II, Job Planning, Benchwork & Layout I, Measurement, Materials & Safety I, Milling I, Turning Between Centers I, and Turning II.
Trade schools that give credit for military training give between 17 and 24 semester hours to 91E soldiers, so a 91E is almost half way to a General Education Associate Degree when he or she completes training.
The type of work these soldiers perform is about the same, where ever they are assigned, but the amount and intensity of work does depend on the type of unit. The most satisfied comments I found from 91E’s were from those working in Forward Support Companies. Almost every type of battalion that goes to the field, Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Cavalry, Engineer, and Aviation has a Forward Support Company attached. Those working in Forward Support Companies said that they were actually doing what they were trained to do, whereas some of those working in base or rear support units sometimes said that either they didn’t have that much to do or they were primarily a welder.
How does a person enlist for MOS 91E and have a pretty good chance of being assigned to a Forward Support Company or at least to a Brigade Support Battalion, which is next best? Go Airborne! Even a light infantry division like the 82nd Airborne has hundreds of trucks, trailers, Humvees, artillery pieces and weapons that wear out or break and need parts. These are the soldiers who, in Iraq and Afghanistan started fabricating steel plates to “armor up” Humvees and trucks, before the Army started having them manufactured.
In response to a young man’s (age 22) question to soldiers about possible army jobs that would give him some experience in the civilian job market, a soldier responded with the following comment. “I’m Army active duty, and my MOS is 91E – allied trades specialist. In other words, a metalworker. I do welding and machining on a daily basis. If you like working with your hands, it’s a pretty good gig. And of course, it translates EXTREMELY well on the outside. As metalworkers, we have a unique position. Our job allows us to use creativity to fabricate tools, equipment, or anything involving sheet metal repair. There aren’t set procedures for any one job. You have to use your noodle and engineer or craft something that will work. The hands-on experience with welding and machining is truly irreplaceable. I love the trade, and the shop environment. Burning and fusing metal together with gobs of lethal electricity and intense heat is truly fascinating. Working with my hands and getting dirty. It’s great.”
When a person enlists in the Army, there are various options available, such as location. A person can enlist for Fort Leonard Wood and be guaranteed at least a year at Fort Leonard Wood. The training that person attends, and the job to which assigned, would be whatever the Army needs at Fort Leonard Wood. Another option is training, the enlistee would contract for training for a specific job, such as MOS 91E allied trades specialist. While in AIT, trainees go online and list three locations, in order, of where they want to be assigned, and within the past few years the US Army Human Resource Command has been really making a dedicated effort to assign new soldiers according to their desires, but the bottom line is where the Army needs that person. There are also a couple options along with training, such as airborne or ranger. A person enlisting for MOS 91E, with the airborne option, would, after AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia, go to Fort Benning, Georgia for three weeks of Airborne School, and learn how to parachute out of an airplane. Then their assignment would probably be to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, probably to the 82nd Airborne Division. Nothing wrong with that. Elite unit, good leaders and high speed, and the absolute best Army Post, on which to be assigned.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri August 2nd 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Our religion has been under attack from many sources. Some are attempting to use the separation of church and state as a vehicle to ban religion. The military has also been under attack, but so far has succeeded in avoiding showdowns. The Army in particular, has maintained a low profile, and tried to stay out of the limelight. The Army and the Marines are the only services that have combat soldiers. (Except Navy SEALS) Those soldiers go into combat to kill or capture an enemy, and may be killed themselves in the process. The phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes” came out of World War II. No one is sure who said it first, but it was used several times. Counting the National Guard and Army Reserves, there are over 2,800 Chaplains in the Army. Every battalion in the Army has a chaplain, who is a Captain, and a Sergeant Chaplain’s Assistant. At Brigade Headquarters the Chaplain is a Major, with a Staff Sergeant Chaplain’s Assistant, and at Division level, the Chaplain is a Lieutenant Colonel, with a Sergeant First Class, as NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) of the Division Chaplain’s Office. Many Army ceremonies start and end with a prayer. During my time in line units, the Chaplain was in and out all time. Especially in a combat area, they always seemed to be good natured, happy people who could boost morale. The famous “Patton Prayer” in World War II, didn’t happen exactly as portrayed in the movie “Patton”. General George S Patton, Jr, who cursed like a bar room sailor, was a devout Episcopalian who regularly attended service and read the Bible daily. In his discussions with his Chaplain about a prayer to ask for good weather, he said that God was a key element in victory, and that God had to be included.
The Army today is a much “cleaner” army than the one I left, all volunteer, all high school graduates, with advanced education pushed hard after they enlist, mostly clean records, and in general “good people”.
To be a Chaplain in the Army, the individual must have a masters degree in theology, and two years as a preacher, and have the recommendation of his dioceses, church, or denomination hierarchy. The Army has Protestant Chaplains of every denomination (Southern Baptist are the most numerous). There are Catholic Chaplains, Jewish Chaplains, Muslim Chaplains, and this spring, under pressure from liberal activists, the Army announced that it would consider the idea of Humanist Chaplains. Chaplains are assigned, after considering the personal desires of the individual, by the Army Chief of Chaplains, who is a Major General (two stars), but as mentioned above every battalion sized unit has a chaplain. A unit may have a chaplain of any religion or denomination. After being accepted by the Army, a minister is commissioned as a First Lieutenant or a Captain, depending on experience, and attends a 3 month Chaplains Basic Officer Course at the Chaplaincy Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. If the Chaplain is going to an airborne unit, they then attend Airborne School. Many Chaplains have gone to Ranger School, and there are several Chaplains, in Special Forces, who have completed the Special Forces Qualification Course to earn their Green Beret. In a combat unit, a Chaplain with a Ranger Tab, is accepted as “one of us”, and even more so in Special Forces units, if the Chaplain is wearing a Green Beret.
The Chaplains’ job is to administer to the spiritual and emotional needs of soldiers and their families. In doing that, the Chaplain becomes the primary advisor and counselor in matters of religion, morals, and morale. Any soldier can go see his Chaplain anytime. The first person the soldier sees is the Chaplain’s Assistant. He or she is like a screener, because if the soldier has specific problems that can be handled better by someone else, such as financial problems, the assistant may connect them with specialists in that area. The Chaplain’s Assistant may reveal what is told to him, only to the Chaplain. What a soldier tells a Chaplain is confidential between the soldier and the Chaplain. However, most Chaplains, in my experience, are pretty common sensed people. When I was a drill sergeant, in charge of a company of half males and half females, a staff sergeant came to me one morning, as I was moving the company to a range, and said; “I’m going to see the Chaplain, I’ve done fell in love with a trainee” ,turned and walked away. I was obligated to tell my commanders, but the company was already moving. In that case, the Chaplain went straight to the Battalion Commander, who immediately relieved the sergeant from drill sergeant duty, and got him away from the trainees.
Anyone can enlist to be a Chaplain’s Assistant. They are not Assistant Chaplains, they are assistants to the Chaplain. The Chaplain is a non-combatant, does not carry a weapon. The Chaplain’s Assistant is a combatant and does carry a weapon, because one of the assistant’s duties is to protect the Chaplain, in the field. That is Army MOS (military occupational specialty) 56M. It requires a four year enlistment, one year or two courses in computer keyboard, or pass a typing test at 25 words per minute, a valid state drivers licenses good for at least a year after enlistment, and be able to get a Secret security clearance. In other words, nothing bad, except a minor traffic ticket. The future 56M should be comfortable and solid with his or her faith. I never met one who wasn’t, but I’ve read of assistants who weren’t particularly religious, and did not like the job. He or she should be an outgoing people person, who enjoys talking and dealing with people. The Chaplain and the Chaplain’s Assistant are the Unit Ministry Team, and the troops look at the assistant as the junior member of that team. They will approach the assistant, especially in a combat area, and ask for encouraging words.
The future 56M attends Basic Combat Training with everyone else, from here that would be at Fort Leonard Wood, then seven weeks of 56M AIT(advanced individual training) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It is one of the easiest AITs, no overnight field exercises. That doesn’t mean no PT. Everybody in the Army does PT (physical training). In AIT they study English grammar, spelling and punctuation, typing and clerical skills, preparing forms and correspondence in Army style, roles and responsibilities of Army Chaplains, and religious history and background. They learn how to set up religious services, coordinate the Chaplains travels with the ongoing operation, how to safeguard privileged communications, and how to perform in crisis management. They learn how to use advanced digital equipment, maintain reports, files, and administrative data for religious operations, also how to receive and safeguard Chapel Tithes and Offering Funds.
In actual practice, the Chaplain’s Assistant often works like an assistant Chaplain. He doesn’t preach, but he does everything else, including counselling and consoling. Many young soldiers will confide in the assistant before the Chaplain, about everything from financial trouble, alcohol, drugs, to infidelity. Many troops look at the Chaplain’s Assistant as an easy job, and physically it usually is, but they don’t envy the assistant when he is setting up multiple memorial services in Iraq and Afghanistan. In combat Chaplain’s like to see as many troops as possible, and the assistants job is to be there protecting his Chaplain, but one of the assistants duties is to coordinate with the units they are visiting, to insure that he doesn’t get his Chaplain in real danger. However, they do like to be with the troops when the troops are in danger. Chaplain Phillip Nichols was killed in Vietnam in October 1970, by a concealed explosive device. Chaplain Tim Vacok was critically injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006, and died in 2009, as a result of those injuries. In August 2010, Chaplain Dale Goetz, hitched a ride on an up-armored Humvee, with a supply convoy going from one Forward Operating Base to another in southern Afghanistan, where he counseled soldiers. A roadside bomb killed all six in the vehicle. A Chaplain’s Assistant, Staff Sergeant Christopher Stout, was killed in Afghanistan in July 2010. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the assistants often led drivers in prayer, before a convoy. One Chaplain’s Assistant in Afghanistan, who already had two tours in Iraq, said that to be a successful Chaplain’s Assistant you must be willing to sacrifice your personal time and get to know as much as you can about your soldiers and the problems they face. He has apparently accepted the responsibility of being someone in whom the soldiers can confide.
This is a good Army job for someone solid in their faith, but who also wants to experience the military.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 25th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
With this Army job, you can take off the uniform one day and go to work the next, doing the same thing at an excellent salary. Army Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 12Y Geospatial Engineers are trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
Geospatial technologies is a term used to describe the range of modern tools used in geographic mapping and analysis of the Earth and its population. In the Army, Geospatial Engineers are trained and become experts in GIS (geographic information systems). One of the primary tools is a computer program called ArcGIS, through which geographic information is collected from satellite imagery, drones, the National Geospatial Agency, the Army Geospatial Center, photos and videos from troops in the field, and many other sources to produce very detailed 2D and 3D geographic maps to help commanders visualize the battlefield. They also support civilian operations for disaster relief and Homeland Security.
Other Government Agencies that use people with that skill are the FBI, CIA, NSA, USGS, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Land Management, and state and larger city governments. Civilian jobs are in engineering companies, many dedicated to GIS engineering, oil and gas companies, utility companies, defense contractors, plus many others.
The Army Geospatial Center, at Army Headquarters in Washington, DC is a subordinate command to the US Army Corps of Engineers. In 2012 the Army moved geospatial training from Fort Belvoir, Virginia (Washington, DC) to Fort Leonard Wood. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is located in St Louis, and is presently purchasing and clearing 99 acres in North St Louis for a new 1.75 billion dollar facility. USGS in Rolla is one of two National Centers for Geospatial Information Science, and it is the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center.
The 18 week Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for MOS 12Y at Fort Leonard Wood doesn’t give you a degree in Geospatial Engineering, but it does give you the knowledge. High tech army schools, like this one, do not teach history, sociology, and all the other electives that are included in a college education. They teach the subject, pure, simple, and hardcore. The cadre of the Geospatial School says that entry-level students leave the AIT course with the same level of education and training that most two-year college students receive. They say that it is really at their permanent duty station where they surpass their civilian counterparts due to the extensive on-the-job training, especially if they are in a combat area.
The lowest paying job a person with this training and experience, but no degree, may qualify for is Mapping Technician, which starts at about $40,000 a year. They would be more likely to land a job as a GIS Specialist, which usually starts around $50,000. With a bachelor’s degree in geospatial engineering, the salaries about double. Historically colleges have taught GIS as part of Geology or Petroleum Engineering degrees, however there are now several universities offering pure Geospatial Engineering degrees, and several offer good online programs. Geospatial Engineers also get a course on how to present briefings, because part of their job is to relay what they learn to the commanders.
The Instructor Development Chief for the 12Y course said; “It’s like Google Earth on steroids. For instance, when we moved from Kuwait to Ramadi, one of the jobs of a geospatial analyst was to brief the commanding general on where they should and shouldn’t go, lines-of-sight, best routes, and different things that could affect the movement of that element. Our main job is to allow the commander, at whatever level, to be able to accurately visualize the battlefield, so that any decision made – – when it affects the terrain – – can maneuver and save lives.”
A former Combat Engineer Sergeant recently told me about preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, with a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was to be on the Advanced Party, which is usually one plane load of soldiers who go first, find everything, and find where everyone is supposed to be when they get there, and get everything set up, so there is no confusion when the main body of troops arrive. He needed maps of the area where they were going, so he went to his Brigade S2 (Intelligence) shop. He ended up in the Geospatial Cell within the S2 shop. He said he was amazed at what he saw and what they could do. He described the room as having a table about 12 feet by 20 feet with 3D maps, four large screen monitors, and they were watching what a drone was seeing in Afghanistan at that minute. They printed a 3D foam map of his area, and printed several, very detailed, flat maps for him.
While deployed in combat areas, the Geospatial Cells work in large air conditioned vans, because their equipment can’t be exposed to the elements. Some have complained that some staff officers use them like “Kinkos” because they are the only section with large printers and plotters. And due to the sensitive nature of their work, they are always placed well within the most secure area of a compound.
After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, future enlisted geospatial engineers move a few blocks to B Company, 169th Engineer Battalion for 12Y AIT. That is about as close to college life as an Army AIT is going to get. It is still the Army and it is still AIT, but after PT (Physical Training) for about an hour in the morning, it is primarily classroom and lab work. The 12Y course is conducted in Brown Hall, which is across the street from the barracks, in class sizes of around 15 students. Geospatial Engineer Sergeants also attend Advanced Leaders and Senior Leaders courses there. Chief Warrant Officer William Jones, a Geospatial Technician, and the Geospatial Skills Division Chief said that AIT students comprise the majority of the student population because, over the years, these soldiers have been leaving the Army after one enlistment for the lucrative salaries geospatial professionals command in the civilian and government sector.
Who can get this job? First, you have to be generally eligible to enlist, medically, physically (in good shape and not over weight), be a high school graduate, although you can start the process before you graduate. The ASVAB requirements are fairly high, scoring 95 in ST (skilled technical), which is comprised of the following tests; word knowledge, paragraph comprehension (English), general science, (earth science, biology, chemistry, physics), mechanical comprehension, and mathematics knowledge (algebra). And, you will need a Secret security clearance before you start AIT, and you will need a Top Secret clearance in your actual assignment. The paperwork for a Secret clearance can be completed before, but the investigation starts when you start basic training. A national agency check is conducted for Secret clearances, and that process usually takes about two months, so if a person has answered all the questions honestly and has nothing derogatory in their background, the clearance should be granted by the end of basic training. A complete background investigation is required for Top Secret clearances. That means everyone listed on the application will be interviewed, by field agents. Friends, neighbors, teachers, preacher, and others (not relatives) identified in the interview process. That takes about six months.
As of September 27th, 2017 the national average salary for a GIS Analyst I (entry level, with no degree) ranged from just over $42,000 to just under $50,000. One web site has 54 geospatial analyst jobs available in the St Louis area, most require a bachelor’s degree, but many do not, with the starting salary around $50,000. The salary range of those with degrees range from the 60’s to $110,000, depending on experience. There are many geospatial companies, in the St Louis area, that do contract work for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. They all require a Top Secret security clearance.
The new facility, in St Louis, for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023. I would assume that there will be many new government GIS jobs available there, at that time.


Continuing with training at Fort Leonard Wood.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 14th 2017.
I have previously written about Combat Engineers and I am going to visit them again, because they are also trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
The Engineer Center and School was moved from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to Fort Leonard Wood in 1988, as a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) approved by congress. The Military Police Center and School, and the Chemical Center and School were moved from Fort McClellan, Alabama to Fort Leonard Wood in 1999, also in BRAC that year. Our District US Representative, at that time, was Ike Skelton, who was a long time member, and finally Chairman, of the House Armed Services Committee, and was very influential in those moves. When the Chemical and the MP folks moved to Fort Leonard Wood it became the “Maneuver Support Center”.
In the past, Fort Leonard Wood was referred to, by the troops, as “Fort Lost in the Woods”, “Little Korea”, and various other less respectful names. The families assigned there complained that there was nothing to do, and no shopping. That has changed. In the last 20 years, there has been a tremendous explosion of business and population in the St Robert/Waynesville area, as well as an explosion of construction on the Fort. In researching these columns, this year, I have read many comments from wives of soldiers, and trainees alike that say Fort Leonard Wood is great. Some have called it “the best kept secret in the Army”.
Combat Engineers are as close to being Infantry as you can get, and not be Infantry. Combat Engineers are trained at Fort Leonard Wood. Infantry soldiers are trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Both are trained in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning trainees stay in the same company for basic combat training (BCT) and advanced individual training (AIT). Both are 14 weeks long. Actually 15 to 16 weeks when you throw in processing at each end. The MOS (military occupational specialty), i.e. job, for light weapons infantryman is 11B. The MOS for combat engineers is 12B. Airborne and light infantry squads and engineer squads have identical organizations, two 4 man teams each led by a Sergeant, with a Staff Sergeant Squad Leader. The secondary mission of combat engineers is to perform as infantry, if necessary. The first eight weeks is basic training, which is normally nine weeks, but OSUT companies don’t clean and turn in weapons and equipment, practice and have graduation, and process out. They have a simple one day completion ceremony, after the end of BCT final tests, and then continue on with their MOS training. Infantry soldiers spend six weeks studying and practicing infantry tactics and weapons, whereas combat engineer soldiers study and practice constructing defensive positions like concertina wire, log and rock obstacles, and tank traps. Then they learn how breach those things, how to blow holes in defensive positions, buildings and doors. They learn how to build fixed and floating bridges, and how to blow them up, and if boats are used they also fall under the engineers. They spend a lot of time on explosives, how to set charges in various conditions. Then they study and practice one of the primary uses of combat engineers in Iraq and Afghanistan – route clearance, in other words, how to find and eliminate IED’s (improvised explosive devices).
Combat Engineer soldiers who stay in the Army will return to Fort Leonard Wood, on temporary duty, after they become a Sergeant, to attend an eight week Advanced Leaders Course, as will Military Police and Chemical soldiers. After they make Staff Sergeant they will return again for a 10 week Senior Leaders Course (MP’s & Chemical also). Officers who are commissioned into the Corps of Engineers attend a three month basic officer leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood, then after about four or five years of service they return on a permanent change of station (PCS) to attend a six month Captains Career Course. Military Police and Chemical Corps officers follow the same pattern. Combat Engineer sergeants and officers may return to attend the very tough 28 day (continuous) Sapper Leaders Course. It is considered to be the engineer’s version of Ranger School, although engineers also attend Ranger School. Graduates of the Sapper Leaders Course get a “Sapper” tab on the left shoulder of their uniform, just like Rangers. A “Sapper” is a combat engineer soldier who is with the front line infantry troops. In Vietnam we had enemy sappers that could sneak through the perimeter wire and leave charges (bombs). We now train soldiers to do just that.
I occasionally had an Engineer Squad attached to my Rifle Platoon, usually it was for them to blow something up, like bridges, buildings or obstacles. Every Brigade Combat Team now has an Engineer Battalion, which consists of a Headquarters Company, two Engineer Companies, one of which is usually a “Sapper” company, a Signal Company, a Military Intelligence Company, and a Chemical detachment.
In 2007 the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, having already deployed to Iraq for a year, and another year in Afghanistan, was again in Afghanistan on a 15 month deployment. Elite troops earn that title, they get used more than others, and naturally they were in one of the hottest spots in Afghanistan, the volatile Korengal River Valley. On November 16th, 2007, a squad from the Route Clearance Platoon of the Brigade’s Engineer Company was doing what they did about every day – route clearance: “Out looking for bombs”. Staff Sergeant Lincoln Dockery was the Squad Leader. They left Forward Operating Base (FOB) Asadabad in Kunar Province to clear the same stretch of road for the third consecutive day. Intelligence had reported hostile activity in the area. Staff Sergeant Dockery’s lead vehicle, a Husky mine-detecting vehicle, activated an IED (bomb). Rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) started hitting the damaged vehicle and it became clear that they were in the middle of an ambush. Staff Sergeant Dockery first went to see the condition of the driver, PFC Amador Magana, of the damaged vehicle. Staff Sergeant Dockery said, “I could see RPG’s and rounds impacting all over the vehicle, and the front windshield was about to cave in from all the (AK-47) bullets.” He then snuck around from the other side, climbed up the back tire, knocked on the window and saw that Magana was barely conscious, but not wounded. Magana managed to give a thumbs up, then stood up and started returning fire at the enemy with his M-249 machine gun. Staff Sergeant Dockery said; ”We could see RPG’s and small arms fire coming at us from across a river. But when I looked to the right, I could see RPG’s hitting our side of the vehicle”. Staff Sergeant Dockery said that he realized that another enemy fire team was much closer, actually about 20 meters (60 feet) from our position. He said; “If we didn’t assault the hill they were attacking from, they would have taken us out. They couldn’t miss, with their weapons, they were so close”. At that point, with the squad firing at the enemy, to keep their heads down, Staff Sergeant Dockery and Specialist Corey Taylor, one of his soldiers, charged the enemy. They were firing and exchanging hand grenades. “Someone yelled out, and I looked up and saw it coming. My hand went up and a hot, sharp feeling went through. The shrapnel didn’t really hurt initially. We also had to dig shrapnel out of Taylor’s leg later,” he said. The pair low-crawled the rest of the way up, watching bullets kick up rocks and dirt all around them, then they pushed the enemy back from their position and found the IED command detonator and wire. Indirect fire, air strikes and other close air support was called in later to deal with about 30 fleeing enemy, but Staff Sergeant Dockery’s assault kept everyone in the patrol alive.
Sixteen months later, Lieutenant General Kenneth Hunzeker, Commander of V (5th) Corps in Europe, awarded Staff Sergeant Dockery the Silver Star. In his remarks, General Hunzeker said; “Truly, Sergeant Dockery is an NCO (non-commissioned officer) who has stepped forward”. At the ceremony, Captain William Cromie, who was Staff Sergeant Dockery’s Platoon Leader that day in Afghanistan, said; “I don’t want to think about what would have happened had he not been there. It would have been a completely different day. While described in the infantry field manual, and taught at every schoolhouse in our career, if asked to charge into an enemy, uphill and within hand grenade range, most people only know yes as a book answer.”
Staff Sergeant Dockery’s wife, Dominika, his son Lincoln, 4, and daughter Pria, 2, were at his side during the ceremony. In his remarks, Staff Sergeant Dockery said; “It was my third deployment, but my best deployment. All our guys made it back.” He also said that his main goal, in life, was to be a better husband and father.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri August 30th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Another of the AIT’s (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Leonard Wood is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 74D Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist. It prepares soldiers for contingencies that they and we hope and pray never happen. There are nine countries known to have nuclear weapons, including China, Russia, and North Korea, also India and Pakistan who share a border and a dislike for each other. There about 20 countries that have or are suspected to have chemical weapons, and eight to ten that are strongly suspected to have biological weapons (anthrax, plague, etc).
In their initial entry training, (basic training or officer basic) every soldier in the Army goes through a gas chamber filled with CS gas (riot tear gas). They enter the chamber while wearing their gas mask, then on command they remove their mask and state their name, rank, date of birth or anything else the chamber operator dreams up to make sure they get a good dose of the gas, then they exit the chamber and blow their nose, maybe throw up, and flush their eyes with water but do not touch the eyes (that makes it worse). Every soldier in the Army does that at least once a year. The purpose is to give them confidence in their protective (gas) mask. Soldiers are trained to get their mask on within nine seconds. Every line company in the Army has a CBRN NCO (non-commissioned officer) (sergeant). Every line company has not only a protective mask for every soldier, but a complete MOPP suit. That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. It is basically a rubber (not really-special chemical compound) suit. Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s hot! Training in MOPP gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it is hell.
Tear gas is not the reason the Army’s focus on CBRN is so intense. Since 2011 Chlorine Gas has been used in Syria an estimated 100 times. Chlorine is not illegal, it is a disinfectant. It is used to treat drinking water and swimming pool water. It is used in paints, textiles, insecticides and PVC to name a few products. So it is very easy to obtain. Using it as a weapon is internationally illegal. When released, as a gas, it produces a green cloud, and when breathed it breaks down the mucus membranes in the airways creating fluid. So a person can drown in his own fluids. There is no antidote, just stop breathing and get away from the cloud, but the damage is permanent.
In April 2017 another gas attack was used in Syria. That time it was Sarin or nerve gas. It is colorless and odorless, and even at low concentrations death can occur within one to ten minutes if the antidote “Atropine” is not injected. Symptoms of nerve gas are convulsions, foaming mouths, blurry vision, difficulty breathing, – death. All soldiers, in line units, are issued a spring loaded atropine syringe along with their protective mask. Just stick it against your leg and it injects atropine. The training models are filled with water. When I went in the Army we carried a small plastic syrette, you just flipped the plastic cover off the needle, slapped your leg, stuck the needle in and squeezed. The gas chamber, masking and atropine injection are annual training requirements for every soldier in the Army, along with qualifying with their rifle and passing a physical fitness test. We have Special Forces (Green Berets) in Syria now and they have CBRN Detection Teams attached.
Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Chemical Center, School and Museum. Chemical Corps officers take their basic and advanced courses there, plus special courses. The AIT is 11 weeks long. The standards are a little higher for 74D, an ASVAB score of 100 in ST (skilled technical), which is composed of the following ASVAB tests, GS – General Science, VE – Verbal Expression, MK – Mathematics Knowledge, and MC – Mechanical Comprehension. The course is also intellectually challenging. Comments from 74D graduates are stay awake, pay attention in class, take notes, and apply yourself. The 84th Chemical Battalion, which runs 74D AIT has the newest facility in the Army. Battalion and Company offices and class rooms downstairs, and classrooms and student dorms upstairs in a giant five story complex. Like living in a hotel and going downstairs for your conference. After physical training of course. Students learn CBRN Room Operations (supply, maintenance, training, etc), and biological agents, chemical agents, radiation detection and response, hazardous materials/toxic industrial chemicals, operational decontamination, thorough decontamination, mass casualty decontamination, and basic chemical/biological detection. They really learn how to decontaminate (wash) a vehicle, while wearing a spaceman suit. A lot of time is spent, in MOPP gear, doing hands on in the Chemical Defense Training Facility on Leonard Wood, and there is a field training exercise (FTX). One former student wrote that during a class on some real kinky stuff, the instructor stopped and said; “If you ever really see this, something in the world has gone terribly wrong”. Students get National Hazmat Certification before they graduate. Students get to keep cell phones, ipads and computers, just not during the day in class.
Many graduates go to chemical units in South Korea. Those assigned to a chemical unit will continue to work with what they learned in AIT. Those assigned to other units may or may not. The CBRN Specialist maintains the CBRN Room, the masks and protective gear and equipment. If the company doesn’t train CBRN often, the specialist gets used for other duties like clerk or driver. I read comments from some who were frustrated at being used for other duties, still others who enjoyed learning different jobs, and still others who took the job as a challenge and aggressively pushed for CBRN training, because they were the most knowledgeable person in the company on that subject. The CBRN position at company level is for a Sergeant E5. Privates, just graduating from 74D AIT are very often assigned to those positions. Promotion to Sergeant E5 is faster than other support jobs. The cutoff scores for promotion to Sergeant E5 in MOS 74D for August 2017 are on the bottom, so everyone on the list for promotion to E5 gets promoted. I read comments from some who had been promoted to Sergeant E5 within two years. Airborne units do train on CBRN, a lot. Enlisting with the “airborne option” gives the new 74D about a 95 percent chance of being assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd Airborne Division trains on CBRN frequently. At battalion level the CBRN NCO is a Staff Sergeant E6, and at brigade headquarters there is a Chemical Corps Captain and a Sergeant First Class E7. One of my earliest memories of training in the 82nd was, as a brand new Private, crawling on my back under a barbed trip wire mat stretched 12 inches off the ground, and having a CS grenade land about two feet from my head. I did get my mask on, but I burned the rest of the day. The 82nd has a Chemical Company as well as CBRN NCO’s and officers in all the company’s, battalions and brigades. Each Special Forces group has a Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, whose job is to go look for chemical agents, in support of Special Forces operations. No you don’t go through Special Forces training and no you don’t wear a green beret, you go to airborne school and wear a maroon beret, but you can be assigned to a Special Forces unit.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division (The Falcon Brigade), has been in Iraq since December 2016. They have been side by side with the Iraqi Army in driving ISIS out of Mosul. They conducted extensive CBRN training at Fort Bragg, and in 2014 they were trained at Fort Polk, Louisiana by the US Army’s 20th CBRN Brigade, and in 2015 they jumped into Fort Leonard Wood and trained at the Incident Response Training Detachment on Fort Leonard Wood. The 82nd Airborne Division is America’s Global Response Force, and it is very serious about CBRN training.
I have seen non-airborne support companies that didn’t train CBRN often and the CBRN specialist only worked on CBRN once a year, when the company went through the gas chamber. They worked as supply or admin clerks or drivers. In airborne companies it is a full time job, CBRN exercises are built into most training. In Iraq there have been several chlorine bomb attacks, and in Afghanistan there have been many poison gas attacks directed primarily at civilians. Those appeared to be composed of pesticides. The Army is very serious about CBRN, as evidenced by the new state of the art training facilities at Fort Leonard Wood.
The civilian occupations which are available to someone who has had the training and a tour in the Army as a 74D are Hazardous Materials Removal, Occupational Health & Safety Specialists and Technicians, Chemical Technician, and Municipal Firefighter. Those leaving after an Army career as a 74D are more in line for Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors, Nuclear Monitoring Technician, or Emergency Management Director.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri September 6th, 2017.  If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013.  Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.

For those interested in Law Enforcement, another army job that is trained at Fort Leonard Wood is Military Police – MP.  In fact, all services, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Department of Defense Civilian Police are trained at the US Army Military Police School (USAMPS) at Fort Leonard Wood.  USAMPS is fully accredited by FLETA (Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation).

Up until a few short years ago, when the question was asked; “Does being an MP in the military help you get a job as a civilian police officer?” The answer was a flat NO.  In fact many law enforcement agencies, while eagerly accepting veterans, preferred that an applicant not have been a military MP.  First, the military didn’t teach the subjects taught in civilian police academies, they didn’t do much of the same type of work, and they were in the military.  To many civilian police forces, having been an Army MP was a detriment, because they came with bad habits.  The military had different forms, different reporting procedures, and they were soldiers.  A soldier is a soldier, regardless of job.  While in service, they think differently, act differently, and speak their own language.  So regardless of the military experience, most civilian police forces required veteran applicants complete a civilian police academy.

That started changing in 2011 when a military police captain and a lieutenant, at Fort Leonard Wood, took the Missouri POST (Police Officer Selection and Training) Exam.  They identified the subjects tested in the exam which were not covered in their military training.  Their boss, the battalion commander, of the 787th MP Battalion, contacted the University of Missouri-Columbia Law Enforcement Training Institute.  In 2012, Mr. William Stephens, the senior instructor at the Columbia Institute partnered with the USAMPS to help them evaluate their training and re-develop it to meet the 600 hours of training required by Missouri.  Initially a core of instructors were trained, and in January 2013 twenty one officers, non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) (sergeants), and two civilians from USAMPS took the Missouri POST exam.  All passed and subsequently received their State of Missouri police license.  After redeveloping and extending the initial military police training, Missouri recognized 722 hours of training, well exceeding the 600 hour requirement.

Army military police, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 31B, are trained in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning that their basic combat training and their advanced MOS training is conducted in the same company, all together.  The basic training phase is ten weeks and the MP phase is 11 weeks.  In February 2013, Company E, 787th MP Battalion, having most of its cadre Missouri POST certified, was designated as the pilot company to test the new curriculum.  At graduation, 69 members of the class, who were age 21 years or older, took the Missouri POST Exam with 62 (90%) passing and receiving their state license.  Now, all 31B graduates, who are 21 or over, take the Missouri POST exam.

The Missouri POST examination is a 200 question exam, which covers constitutional law, Missouri statutory law, traffic law, ethics and professionalism, domestic violence, human behavior, patrol issues, jail population management, traffic accident and law enforcement, criminal investigation, offense investigation, report writing, juvenile justice and procedures, first responder, defensive tactics, firearms and the fundamentals of law enforcement driving.

In addition to the required civilian subjects, military police training covers advanced communications and advanced map reading skills, the M2 .50-cal machinegun and the MK 19 .40-cal automatic belt fed grenade launcher, vehicle Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) and driving the HMMWV on and off road, pistol qualification, MP Law Enforcement Operations, Defensive tactics and techniques, Detainee Operations, Active shooter response, Tactical operations, and Battlefield Forensics.

Much of the training is conducted at Stem Village, a mock city on Fort Leonard Wood named for a former MP Corps commandant.  The village covers 77,670 square feet and is constructed of dual purpose buildings like a movie theater which also contains weapons training classrooms.  There is a mock MP Station, bar, strip mall and gymnasium.  Another part of the village, used by officers and NCO’s that attend nine different courses from special police operations to anti-terrorism and counterdrug, has a credit union, shoppette, health clinic, family housing and other buildings that might be encountered on a military base.  There is also a state-of-the-art urban operations training area that resembles areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There is also one of the most realistic anti-terrorism evasive driving training areas for Department of Defense drivers for general officers and VIP’s.

MP duty varies with the unit and its mission.  The following was written by an MP stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.

“Most units rotate trough a cycle on a base. Here at Ft. Leonard Wood we have a pretty average cycle. One month Law Enforcement, one month Access Control, One month training. During the Access control month we work the gates checking IDs. We issue passes and ensure that only authorized personnel and their vehicles enter the post. During the Law Enforcement month we patrol the base in vehicles and on foot. We respond to 911 calls and general complaints. We use RADAR to enforce speed laws and of course watch stop signs for violations. The training month is used to prepare for field missions. These can consist of basic soldier skills or advanced unit specific missions. Some units train to escort POWs during war, others train to support forward units in finding their way. A unit may be tasked with setting up a holding compound for prisoners or detainees.

A big question I get asked is, Are you treated differently as an MP? The answer is yes and no. Some people are afraid to approach police officers. They picture us all a mean, power hungry people. Others love to taunt cops. Most people are indifferent to us though. They know we are around they just don’t think about us much. We are by the nature of our duties different. While many people sleep or take holidays, we work the roads and gates.

24 hours a day you can find a crew of MPs standing guard or working a beat. 365 days a year you can call the MP station and get a dispatcher on the phone. That’s the nature of MP work.

Military Police are just soldiers doing a different job. We carry weapons with live ammo every day. We write tickets for people well above our own pay grades.

We face combat situations in the front lawns of soldier’s homes weekly. And when we see a cop behind us we think, “What does this jerk want”.”

Another wrote; “God forbid you write a Colonel’s wife a ticket and it gets pulled.”

In combat areas MP’s can and do see combat.  They are occasionally used for route reconnaissance, and sometimes for convoy escort.

On Sunday, March 20th 2005 a squad, in three Humvees, from the 617th MP Company of the Kentucky National Guard was escorting a convoy of 30 civilian tractor trailers in Iraq.  Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein was the Squad Leader and Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester the assistant.  The MP vehicle, leading the convoy, came under attack from insurgents in a pair of dry irrigation ditches that ran parallel to the road.  They were firing AK-47’s, machineguns, and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.  The other MP’s all sped down the shoulder of the road to get to the front of the convoy between the insurgents and the trucks.  They made a right turn onto a side road, in an attempt to flank the insurgents, when the lead vehicle was hit by an RPG round, wounding the three MP’s in that vehicle.  Simultaneously, ten insurgents, firing their rifles, ran across a field to within about 60 feet of where the MP’s had come to a halt. Two MP’s in the second vehicle ran to give aid to the wounded, while one continued firing a Humvee mounted .50-cal machinegun. Staff Sergeant Nein and Sergeant Hester, in the third vehicle, ran to a nearby berm and started firing their M4 carbines, Sergeant Hester also had an M203 Grenade Launcher, with which she pumped out several 40 mm high explosive rounds. By that point in the firefight, the attackers had moved into the ditches and hidden behind several trees. The two MPs treating the wounded on the ground then came under sniper fire as the skirmish continued to escalate. Both soldiers responded by firing AT-4 rockets toward the farmhouse where the sniper was hiding. With the fire of the .50-cal. machine gun beginning to thump away at the enemy’s flank, Staff Sgt. Nein and Sgt. Hester laid down a continuous volume of fire at the 10 insurgents in the closest ditch. Although the Americans were fighting back, the situation had reached a stalemate. The MP’s were greatly outnumbered and had wounded, they couldn’t withdraw, and they would run out of ammunition long before a relief force could reach them. Staff Sergeant Nein and Sergeant Hester had only one option – attack. Realizing that their ammunition was dangerously low, Sergeant Hester ran through the fire back to a Humvee for ammo and hand grenades. Resupplied, the two rolled over the berm and attacked the ditch, while the .50-cal was forcing the insurgents to keep their heads down. Sgt. Hester killed three insurgents with her M4 Carbine and a fourth with her M203 grenade launcher. “It was either them or me—and I wasn’t going to choose the latter,” she later recalled. At the end of the 30 minute firefight, the MP’s had captured one unwounded Iraqi, six wounded, and found 24 dead. They also found 22 AK-47 rifles, 6 PRG launchers, 16 rockets, 13 RPK-type light machine guns, three PKM belt-fed machine guns, 40 hand grenades, and a mountain of small arms ammunition, plus one other chilling discovery – the insurgents were all carrying handcuffs.

Both Sergeants were awarded the Silver Star for valor, for that action. Making 5 foot 4 inch, 23 year old, Leigh Ann Hester, who was a Shoe Carnival store manager in Nashville before her guard unit deployed, the first female to be awarded the Silver Star, since World War II.


One of the AIT (Advanced Individual Training) courses at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri is MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 88M, Motor Transport Operator, i.e. “Truck Driver”. If you’re a truck junky and your day doesn’t start until you climb in the cab and light up that big diesel, this is the Army job for you. It is one of the easiest AIT’s, consisting of seven weeks of training, plus one week of administrative stuff. Unless you already have a Class A CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and two years’ experience driving 80,000 pound tractor trailers then the training is only four weeks, after basic, then you are promoted to Specialist E4 upon completion of the four weeks. It is also one of the easiest jobs to get in the Army. If you want to get in the Army fast, if you just want to get in and not wait a year for a slot as a Satellite Communication Systems Operator Maintainer, and you don’t want to go into the Infantry, you can almost always get in as a truck driver. The ASVAB requirement is not high, a score of 85 in the OF (Operator – Food) area, which is comprised of four parts of the ASVAB, Verbal Expression (word knowledge and paragraph comprehension), Numerical Operations (very simple math), Auto and Shop Information, and Mechanical Comprehension.
The Army has a gazillion 88M’s, and it will always need more. They are everywhere all over the world in every type of unit. The type of job a soldier has as an 88M depends entirely on the unit. If a man or woman enlists as an 88M, they could end up hauling mail and supplies in Germany or Hawaii, or hauling tanks at Fort Bliss, Texas, or pulling maintenance and weeds in the motor pool at Fort Leonard Wood.

Freezing temperatures and snow? No Problem! The Road Kings keep rolling along, delivering supplies forward across Europe. #RaiseUp

The 66th Transportation Company is a United States Army medium truck company that provides line haul support to units for USAREUR operations. Raise Up!

66th Transportation Company, Kaiserslautern, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Fuel convoy, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California

Big rigs hauling tanks in the desert

If they enlist with an airborne option, they have a 90 percent chance of going to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, about a 10 percent chance of going to Vicenza, Italy or Anchorage, Alaska.

82nd Brigade Support Battalion  October 7, 2020  ·    Paratroopers of the 82nd BSB conducted a rapid Battalion Support Area (BSA) displacement, showing the flexibility and adaptability of the battalion.

88M’s of the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy on an exercise in Germany.

The 88M’s do not usually drive Humvees, unit soldiers drive those, the 88M’s drive 5 tons and above. Driving a truck in the Army can be a great job, it can be a boring job, it can be a very busy job, and in combat it can be a very dangerous job.
A former Army truck driver had this to say; “Imagine yourself in the cab of a truck bouncing along a highway in Iraq. Palm trees and dun-colored houses whiz past. Children run out to beg. Men in white dishdashas and red headscarves with hostile faces watch you pass. You swerve to miss a donkey carcass; it could be booby-trapped. Suddenly, a familiar sound: the pop, pop, pop of machine-gun fire. You hope the soldiers in the Humvees escorting your convoy shoot back. You pray the flak vest you’re wearing stops an AK round, because the truck you’re driving is not armored. Above all, you tell yourself, “Don’t stop.” There are bad guys out there who want to pull you out and cut off your head. Then suddenly there’s a sharp concussion, black smoke, chaos. An IED on the left side of the road. You say a quick prayer and you move on. It’s another day on the job for a truck driver in Iraq. In Afghanistan, First Lieutenant Ben Keating did not want to ask a driver to drive over a narrow and unstable mountain road to haul supplies to a new outpost, so he drove the truck himself. The road gave away, the truck rolled down the mountain, and 1LT Ben Keating was wedged in rocks where he died. Combat Outpost Keating was named for him. Two Medals of Honor were awarded when the Taliban tried to overrun COP Keating. That is described in the book “Outpost”, by Jake Tapper, which is a 600 page gripping, detailed, fascinating, hold-you-to-the-page account of a terrible story.

If you are a line grunt, in a unit that has been in the field so many days that you’ve lost count, and you’re facing a 10 or 20K walk back to camp and trucks arrive, they are treated like hero’s. An Infantry Brigade Combat Team consists of seven battalions counting the Brigade Support Battalion, which includes the Brigade Headquarters Company, There are three Infantry Battalions, a Cavalry Squadron (Reconnaissance), a Fires Battalion (Artillery), and an Engineer Battalion which has two Combat Engineer Companies, a Military Intelligence Company and a Signal Company. Infantry, Cavalry, Fires, and Engineer Battalions each have a Forward Support Company attached. Each Forward Support Company has about 20 88M’s and ten trucks. The Distribution Company in the Brigade Support Battalion has about 10 88M’s and six trucks. So there are around 150 88M’s dedicated to driving a truck, in a brigade. I have read that in many places in the Army truck drivers are called “POG’s” along with all other POG’s (Person Other than a Grunt). We had a different name for rear echelon people when I was in the Army (can’t put it in print), but we didn’t include the truck drivers who picked us up in the field. The slurs to anyone not a grunt are not as prevalent in airborne units, because everyone jumps out of airplanes, so the pride of being airborne transcends the petty bickering and jealousies found in other units.
If a person enlists for MOS 88M, they get trained and awarded the MOS 88M. Where they get assigned, in the world, is according to the needs of the Army. If they get the airborne option, there is a 90 percent chance of them going to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
After basic combat training, at Fort Leonard Wood, they move a couple blocks down the street to new barracks that are more like hotels. There are three bunks in a room, a stacked double and a single. Each room has its own bath and shower and closets instead of wall lockers. There are usually more males than females, so the females often have only two people to a room. There are modern laundry rooms on every floor. There are usually two or three days of waiting until the company is full, before training starts. First call (wake up) is 04:30, then PT (physical training) at 06:00. The course may be fairly easy, but the PT is not. An initial PT test is given the first week. Anyone who fails the PT test gets remedial PT in the evenings, and some companies have full PT twice a day. The new ACFT, the six event Army Combat Fitness Test, is now being conducted in AIT.  With the introduction of gender neutral army jobs, there is extra emphasis on physical fitness. So, the message is get in shape in basic and stay that way. Everyone is issued a little red book, which is how to PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Service) the vehicle each time before, during and after operation. PMCS is a term that becomes imbedded in the mind of every driver in the army. There is a check list and a form to complete. You have to clean the vehicle, maintain it, and complete the paperwork, swearing that you have done those things. . The Army is completely serious about PMCS. I saw a super Lieutenant Colonel Infantry Battalion Commander and his Major Executive Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, both relieved of duty (fired) because a surprise maintenance inspection found that the battalion vehicles were not being maintained.  Those two officers then needed to start working on their resumes because their future in the Army was basically over.
Some have written that the first week of training is the hardest, because it is five days of eight hours a day in the classroom, and if caught sleeping the threat is that they will not graduate on time. Hands on and driving training is on “pads”, which are giant concrete and paved areas, out in the woods on Fort Leonard Wood, built specifically for 88M training on specific vehicles. Training is on the 5 ton truck (M1083), the HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) M1120 LHS (Load Handling System), and the M915 standard tractor semi-trailer, plus others. Over a week is spent on the 915 semi. One female soldier said that she just could not back a semi. She went to the PX, bought a toy tractor trailer set and sat on the floor in her room moving them back and forth until the light went on, “If I turn the wheel this way the trailer does that”. She said that the next day she “threaded” the M915 and trailer.

M 1083 five ton truck.

M 1102 HEMTT with Load Handling System.

M915 Semi Tractor.

M915 with 40 foot container.

Various configurations with the M 915.

Students drive in convoys both day and night, on highways and off road. There is a lot of driving time, and there are always two in the cab.

Student convoy on Fort Leonard Wood.

88M AIT students training on the M 915.

88M AIT students training on reaction to an unexpected roll over.

Driving simulator.

There is a week in the field about halfway through the course. They sleep on cots in tents. As with most jobs in the Army, the real learning happens when the soldier gets to his or her permanent unit.
You don’t get a civilian Class A CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in the Army, but most states have adopted a “troops to truckers” program, which, with the commanders signature, allows a soldier leaving the Army to skip the skills test, and take only the written test to get a Class A CDL.
I have attended graduation ceremonies of 88M’s at Fort Leonard Wood, the sergeants were professional and the students were having fun.
There are a hundred different types of professional truck driving jobs. The people who stay in the seat usually find a particular job that suits them. I remember one lady who hauled household goods, during the summer, for moving companies. She was 35 to 40, had her 9 year old son with her, she was beautifully manicured with her designer jeans and boots. She meticulously checked everything going on and off her trailer, but never touched anything herself, lumpers did that. She said that she just enjoyed the adventure and the freedom.

Susie Lyons.  Woman Truck Driver of the Year.  40 years and 4 million accident free miles.

Then there was an older couple from Florida, who hauled household goods. They had a 12 foot long sleeper on their truck. They said that they left home in April and returned in September and that they made enough to just stay home in Florida for the winter.

Kenworth Road Tractor with 13 foot living quarters.

Soldiers, with MOS 88M, who stay in the Army, advance up the ranks at about the same rate as most other support MOS’s. Sergeants may be senior drivers responsible for their own and one or two other trucks, or they may drive very large or complicated vehicles. Staff Sergeants are Squad or Section Leaders, Material Movement NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) or Transportation NCO. A Sergeant First Class may be a Brigade Motor Sergeant or a Transportation Platoon Sergeant or a Truckmaster which is like an administrative supervisor in a motor pool.


If you enjoy cooking and think you would like to cook for a living, be a chef in a restaurant, or manage a restaurant, becoming an Army Cook might be of benefit to you. There was a time when I would never have recommended this. When I went in the Army a cook was the bottom of the food chain (no pun intended). If a person scored too low on the entrance exams for most Army jobs, he was made a cook. When I got to my company in the 82nd Airborne Division, each company had Its’ own building with its’ own mess hall. All Privates through Specialists were on the KP (Kitchen Police) roster. Six or eight KPs were sent to the mess hall every day, to scrub floors, wash pots and pans, and generally do anything the cooks didn’t want to do. It was from 04:00 AM to 21:00 (9:00 PM). It was hot, loud, steamy and continuous. Our Mess Sergeant was an infantry Staff Sergeant who was mean as a snake with a perpetual hangover, and ran the mess hall with an iron hand. On weekends and holidays you could sell your KP for $20, and that was 1962 and 1963. I pulled so much KP that I was offered the job as a cook. No way! Things didn’t change much through Vietnam, but around the time the Army started trying to change from rough riders to professionals, the food service people started realizing their value and becoming more professional themselves.
I was a Rifle Platoon Sergeant in the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Italy in 1977 – 1979. We went on a fast moving 17 day field exercise in an Italian Army Training Area north of Rome. The food people couldn’t keep up with us, we missed meals. They caught up with us one time and all they had was condensed rice and shrimp, you just add water and heat it up, which they had done. It is not very good, the troops usually leave it. The troops came back for seconds and ate every drop that was there. About a week later our Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Murphy, was making rounds, visiting the troops, I took he and our Company Commander, Captain Victor Mitchell, to see my platoon. The colonel talked to the troops about the exercise and asked how they were doing – OK, then as he was ready to leave, he smiled and asked; “Are you getting enough to eat?” They answered in unison a big loud NO SIR! As we were walking back up the hill Colonel Murphy turned to Captain Mitchell; “Vic, what’s going on with the chow?” Captain Mitchell explained that the food service people couldn’t seem to keep up with us, or find us at meal time. We heard, through the rumor mill, that there was a shakeup in food service supervision, but we never had chow problems again.
How things have changed. Army MOS 92G was a Cook, then a Food Service Specialist, and now a “Culinary Specialist” who can receive civilian certification as a chef. They wear black trousers and a white chef jacket, while on duty.

Sometimes the jacket comes off during food prep.

They have competitions for chef of the quarter, and large army posts have annual installation culinary competitions. Then there is the annual Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Virginia, which has competitors from all the services, National Guard and Reserves. The Pentagon has its own TV channel for military personnel. The cooking show “The Grill Sergeants” with military chefs, is one the most popular shows. There are no more “mess halls”, now there are Dining Facilities (DFAC). These are large consolidated facilities, with the latest equipment and technology, and offer a wide variety in their menus, because soldiers are no longer bound to eat in “their” DFAC, they can eat in any DFAC, which has created a competition between DFAC’s on the same post. Where there was once probably a hundred mess halls in a Division of about 12,000 soldiers, there are now 14 DFAC’s on all of Fort Bragg, North Carolina of over 50,000 soldiers. And there is no more “KP duty”, civilian contractors provide the KP’s in the DFAC’s. In fact, of those 14 DFAC’s, 10 are military and 4 are operated by the civilian contracting company.
In 1968 the Army established the “Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program” to promote professionalism in Army dining facilities. It has grown to an annual inspection of almost every dining facility in the Army, by the Joint Center of Culinary Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia. There are three main categories “Military Garrison”, “Active Army Field Kitchen”, and “Reserve Component Field Kitchen” (guard and reserves). DFAC’s which are operated by combat units compete in the “Field Kitchen” category, because both their DFAC and Field Kitchen are inspected. The Joint Culinary Center of Excellence from Fort Lee, Virginia has a check list of 61 items in 9 different categories they use during inspections. They check Administration/Training/Supervision, Accounting Procedures, Request/Receipt/Storage of Rations, Field Food Service Sanitation, Command Support, Appearance/Attitude of Food Service Personnel, Servicing/ Troop Acceptability (they interview soldiers who eat at the DFAC), Kitchen Site Selection/Layout, and Food Preparation and Quality.

I have said many times that the most elite force you can simply enlist for is “Airborne”, I have the same recommendation if you want to be a cook. The top winners of the world wide “Phillip A Connelly Award” have been; In 2009, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, in 2012 and 2014 the 1st Brigade Combat Team, in 2015 the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the 1st Brigade again in 2016, and in 2019 the award for the best Dining Facility in the Army went to the 82nd Support Battalion.

The DFAC manager of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, “Devils Den DFAC”, through those last two inspections was Sergeant First Class David Sarnecki. SFC Sarnecki graduated from high school in 1992, went to Illinois Wesleyan University for three years, tried to find a job, but couldn’t, so he decided to serve his country for three years, until the jobs opened up. He ended up loving the Army and loving his job, he commented; “They say an army moves on its stomach and keeping paratroopers fed, I’m right at the heart of the action”. Now he’s retiring from the Army, at age 43, with a masters degree in political science, which the Army paid for, and a certified chef with extensive experience in large food management and catering.

The 2019 winning DFAC is called the Provider Café, and is operated by the 223rd Quartermaster (QM) Field Feeding Company, of the 82nd Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, and they are professional paratroopers as well as professional chef’s.

Serving in any job (MOS) in the 82nd Airborne Division is working in a different culture from most of the rest of the Army.  It is a culture of achievement and success, a culture of professionalism.

Provider Café DFAC Thanksgiving layout.

223rd QM Co paratrooper preparing for a parachute jump.

223rd QM Co shooting on the range.

223rd QM Co taking the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test)

Culinary Specialist soldiers must stay fit.  The maximum score on the new ACFT is 600.  These are the 223rd QM Co soldiers who scored above 500.  This would be impressive for any army company.

223rd QM Co Specialist Sindi Rodriguez won the 82nd Airborne Division and the Fort Bragg Installation Chef of the Year FY20.

The 223rd is a company of winners, but it is not unique in the 82nd Airborne Division.

82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team Dining Facility

1st QTR FY2020 Superior Dining Facility Winner. This is our FOURTH consecutive quarter receiving this Award, sweeping the calendar year of 2019. So proud of the Culinarians and Leaders of the Panther Brigade Dining Facility.

3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division October 23rd 2020.Panther Family;  today we are recognizing the outstanding performance of the following Culinary Specilalists:

Staff Sgt. Christopher Go awarded an Army Achievement Medal for winning Brigade Chef of the Quarter.

Sgt. John Bawuah an Army Commendation Medal for winning Installation Chef of the Quarter.

Specialist Treshawn Speight was awarded an Army Achievement Medal for Brigade Chef of the Quarter and an Army Commendation Medal for winning Installation Chef of the Quarter.

Congratulations and well done!

82nd Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team Dining Facility (Devil’s Den DFAC)

Your Devils Den team won the Super Bowl(Best Thanksgiving Fort Bragg Installation). This is the most important meal of the year for a 92G. To say for the next year we are the champions is an honor and a pleasure. Of course we could not accomplish anything without the hard work of all the Culinary Specialist/Paratroopers assigned to 1 Brigade Combat Team. Thank you to all for the support. #StrikeHold #BlackDevils #DevilsDen #IfYouAintFirstYoureLast

In the 82nd Airborne Division, even our cooks can go to #RangerSchool! Meet Specialst Matthew Braswell, a culinary specialist assigned to the 307th Brigade Support Battalion,  1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.  He loves being in the #AllAmerican Division because he gets to jump out of airplanes and work for some of the best leaders in the US Army.

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, a culinary specialist, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares the ingredients for the main entrée for the chef competition during All American Week XXIX May 21, 2018, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Four teams, one from each Brigade is tasked with cooking a three-course meal for a panel of judges. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)
U.S. Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, presents and serves one of the three courses during the chef competition during All American Week XXIX May 21, 2018, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The chef competition is only one of several events and competitions that takes place during All American Week. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

The 2017 Phillip A. Connelly award for the best DFAC went to the CSM Lawrence T. Hickey Dining Facility at Grafenwöhr, Germany, which is staffed by both US Army Culinary Specialists and German civilian cooks.

To become an Army Culinary Specialist, the entrance requirements are still not that high, so it is easy to qualify for that MOS. Although, now college graduates are enlisting specifically to be a cook, because they want the training and experience in preparing and feeding in large volumes, and they want the Culinary Chef Certification. After basic training, the 92G AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is eight weeks and three days at Fort Lee, (Petersburg) Virginia.

US Army veteran Bryce Ward gave this detailed description of 92G AIT.

“I am a 92G and graduated Culinary Specialist AIT in July 2017.

Let me give you an outline of it:

Congratulations, you graduated basic training. You’re reporting to Fort Lee, Virginia, to the 23rd QM BDE, 266 QM BN. (266th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade) There are two companies in this BN. There is Bravo Company and there is Tango Company.

Your first stop with be 23rd QM BDE, BDE HHC.  (Headquarters and Headquarters Company)  Your stay here can range from a few hours to a few months. It all depends what your AIT is and when classes start. There are 92A’s, 92F’s, 92G’s, 92R’s, 92S’s, 92W’s, 92Y’s, 68M’s, and 27D’s with you here.

From BDE HHC, you all will branch off and head your separate ways to AIT when your classes start.

You’ll either take a walk across BDE HHC’s basketball court to Tango Company, or you’ll walk, west I think, to Bravo Company. In my time in AIT, we did not have Drill Sergeants but Platoon Sergeants. Today, you WILL have a Drill Sergeant. Why? Because big Army doesn’t think there’s enough discipline in AIT, and Drill Sergeants will bring that back. So, they’re not just in basic anymore. Beware.

Before AIT, you will pick up your TA-50 gear (field gear) plus your cook whites. You may wear the old cook white smocks, but since the Army has transitioned to the chef jacket, you may be issued that now instead.

AIT will begin with the first day being an 8 hour long orientation at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCOE) auditorium. On this day, you will be taught what you’ll learn throughout your 8 week, 3 day stay in AIT land. You will be told what your class number is (ex. 20–016, or ‘Year 2020 – Class #16) who your civilian instructors will be for the Techniques of Cookery and Small Quantity Baking modules (TOC/SQB), and what date your class will graduate. They’ll reiterate the battle buddy system, SHARP policies, EO policies, etc, and TRADOC regulations that apply to initial entry training soldiers. If you are a re-class, TRADOC rules for IET don’t apply to you.

A caveat: You will see that the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy also train their cooks at Fort Lee JCCOE. They will all be trained separately from each other. You will not share classes with them. You will see them in formations outside of the building, however, and that’s about it. Notably absent will be the Coast Guard, as they train their cooks at USCG Training Center Petaluma, California.

For lunch on this day, you’ll get to eat at the JCCOE DFAC, where your meals are cooked by Soldiers three weeks ahead of you in AIT. They’ll try to sell it like you’re eating at a Michelin rated establishment that serves superb food. Don’t believe it. If you barely know how to cook, your battle buddies just three weeks ahead of you don’t know how to cook much better. Trust me. If you survived your basic training DFAC, you’ll survive this one. If the rice is crunchy just swallow, don’t chew.

The next day, you’ll sit in the same auditorium and be lectured for another 8 hours about basic food safety, the military rules and regulations that govern military food service operations, simple rules even a Jack in the Box employee would know such as; ‘FAT TOM’, proper hand washing and kitchen sanitation, what cross contamination is, how to rotate stock properly, what the proper hot and cold holding temperature is, how to shelf foods properly (like never putting raw meat over cooked meats), what a cooks mount is, and what is required to wear with the chef uniform (thermometer, note pad, pen, ID card, ID tags, apron)

Then, you’ll spend one week in Techniques of Cookery, and one week in Small Quantity Baking. In TOC, you’ll learn the system of measurement used in cooking (tablespoon, teaspoon, cup, quart), you’ll learn the different types of knives, how to cut with those knives, how to read a recipe card, how to prep ingredients. If you’re lost, or have questions, there will be a salty, retired 92G civilian instructor to guide you, and possibly yell at you.

In the TOC module you should learn how to quarter a chicken, you’ll bake macaroni and cheese, you’ll learn the different ways to prepare an egg (scrambling, over easy/medium/hard, soft/hard boiling, fried, omelet, and even poached if your instructor has time, mine did. You will not be taught sunny side up, because by regulation it is not allowed to be served) It escapes my mind what your final dish in TOC is in order to move on to SQB, but it wasn’t hard. I think it was spaghetti and meatballs.

In SQB, you’ll make cookies, cupcakes, a pie (or turnovers, your choice), and to complete the SQB module, you’ll bake a cake.

After SQB, you’ll move on to small garrison. There used to be a ‘large garrison’ module, but that was phased out some time ago. This is when you’ll be introduced to DFAC operations. What you’ll actually be doing for the next three to four years of your life. Before you actually begin cooking, you’ll return to the JCCOE auditorium where you’ll receive classroom instruction on what to expect and what to do for that module. Then, you’ll start cooking in the other half of that week. Remember when I said on your first day of AIT you’ll have people three weeks ahead of you cooking for you? Well now it’s your turn. Those brand new AIT students will be coming through the line and you’ll be serving them.

There will be two shifts. Early and late. Early shift will report at 0500 and cook, serve breakfast and cook lunch. Late shift will report at 1100 and serve lunch and then clean up and close the DFAC. Breakfast shift will go home at 1300, late shift will go home at 1600.

Once you wrap up small garrison, you will spend two weeks in the ‘field’ at FOTB, or Field Operations Training Branch. As I said, this is a two week module. The first week you will be trained on all field equipment and how to use it. You will learn about rations, SSMO operations, etc, as well. The following week, you will cook at FOTB.

After FOTB, you will head into your QMSTX (Quartermaster Situational Training Exercise). The first day, you will do a ’round robin’ and refresh on everything you learned in basic training, and the next day you will apply it to practical scenarios. A lot like basic training, without boring the reader with details.

Then, you’ll spend the latter portion of your STX week making sure your ASU is in order, that it still fits, getting any rank/awards added, finalizing orders, getting out-processed from Fort Lee, and then you’ll graduate.

That’s the academic aspect of AIT.

Now for the physical aspect:

You will PT from 0500 to 0615. Chow will be at 0630 to 0700. Hygiene will be from 0700 to 0730. Class starts at 0800.

PT will vary, but was straightforward for me. Monday, Wednesday, Friday RUN DAY. Tuesday muscle failure, Thursday muscle failure with light cardio (i.e. one lap around the track and then do as many pushups as you can, rinse and repeat) Give PT everything you have each morning. Just because you’re a cook doesn’t mean you get a free pass on staying in shape. It’s a job requirement, after all.

Important note for the physical aspect: You will take two APFTs (and soon, ACFT) in AIT. The first one should be during week two or three of AIT. It will be a diagnostic to see where you are at. If you pass this diagnostic, you are eligible to go on pass during the weekends, and order out for food. You will then take a record APFT. Passing this one means you will graduate.

If you do not pass the record APFT/ACFT, there’s time for one more but it is very important you pass it the second time, or you may not graduate on time. You will not graduate AIT or leave Fort Lee, that is a promise. You don’t want to be stuck in AIT land any longer than you have to.

For your downtime:

ENJOY IT. When you are not in class, on duty at night (yes, you will have fireguard but it’ll be called by a different name), doing PT, or barracks maintenance, and you have down time (weekends especially), enjoy it. Watch movies, play cards with your roommates, play video games, go on pass if you’re allowed to (go bowling, to the warrior zone, movie theater, PX, Church)

You will be punished and smoked, just like basic. Your platoon will fowl up, another platoon will fowl up, it will happen. Get used to it. Just like in basic, the quickest way out of AIT is to graduate.”

After AIT you can literally be assigned anywhere in the world, where the Army is located. If you use the airborne option you will attend three weeks of airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, then you will have an 85% chance of being assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Either the 82nd Airborne Division, (it has 90% of the cooks on post) or Special Forces or one of the other airborne units on post. Some will go to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, and some to the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Anchorage, Alaska.
A Culinary Specialist has to be out of AIT for at least a year, and working in a DFAC to apply for the Certified Culinarian program (it is a test). Military cooks in the grade of Sergeant and above may apply to attend the Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course. That is a three week course at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia, which is attended by cooks from all the services. I think they learn real TV Food Show level chef cooking.
There is also an Enlisted Aide Training Course. Cooks are enlisted aides for general officers. That course teaches household management, uniform maintenance, basic bartending, accounting and scheduling.
This field is big, there are a lot of cooks in the Army. After making Specialist, promotions are sometimes slow, but morale among food service personnel now is 1000 % better than years past. There are still some units where cooks work full shifts (long hours), but most have DFAC’s staffed with shifts so everyone gets to work a normal day. A Brigade Combat Team in the 82nd Airborne Division consists of three infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, an artillery battalion, an engineer battalion, and a brigade support battalion. The cooks are all assigned to the brigade support battalion, however some are in Forward Support companies. A Forward Support Company, which provides transportation, supply, maintenance, and field feeding is attached to each of the other battalions, however, in garrison all help staff the brigade DFAC.
If you enjoy cooking, this can be a good job, a person can become a chef, but keep in mind that on the way to becoming a chef there will be a lot time over a hot stove cooking for several hundred people at one time.